As winter approaches and the workload gets more intense, Garden Manager Andrew tells us how he’s preparing for winter
Years of experience have taught me that I can’t slacken off the pace at this time of year. Otherwise we fall behind as spring arrives and by then it’s too late. The amount of things that need to be achieved before we reopen to visitors is staggering and I find the best way to cope is not to panic and write lots of lists! A daily routine for me is to walk around the entire garden with a notebook and pen and jot down the things that I see need doing. Sometimes I even manage to cross off some of the earlier things I had already noted!
The house on a clear day
Reflect on the past, plan for the future
Autumn and winter are very much seasons for reflection and planning in gardening. I need to look back at this time last year and consider what went well that I wish to repeat, and what gave me problems and perhaps needs redoing. Certain plants that looked great in a catalogue when I ordered them may not have fared so well when planted in our garden! This could be our microclimate, soil conditions, maintenance regimes, pest and diseases and a whole host of other reasons that need careful reflection and examination going forwards.
Roses still flowering in the Walled Garden
Over the last month we have completed the cutting of our long grass areas on the south lawn. Hiring a pedestrian flail mower – a machine I had never used before but am now in love with – has significantly speeded this up! It goes through almost anything, not just cutting but also mulching everything into a fine pulp. This has reduced hours of the work, and is more environmentally friendly! We no longer have to use the big tractor to collect the waste and drive it off to a dumping site. Having cut the grass, we put the mower to work in the wilderness, clearing away large areas of bramble and nettles to reveal open spaces for wildflowers to grow. Part of my overall plan is to improve the wilderness with a greater variety of plant species and increase biodiversity and interest in this historical part of the garden.
The beech tree in wilderness. A carpet of fallen leaves!
The beautiful trees here at Chawton
Tree work comes to the fore at this time of year too. We have a huge number of trees on the estate, which inevitably means winter work. Raising canopies and de-limbing to improve views, removing dead and dangerous branches and felling where tree density is too thick or trees are diseased. It is hard, heavy work but I appreciate it keeps me warm on a cold winter’s day!